/ General Education

About the Anchor Plan

The General Education Revision Task Force is pleased to present the Anchor Plan as a revisioning of the Hope College General Education.

After three years of study; conversations and with faculty, staff, students and alumni; and careful reflection, the committee believes that the Anchor Plan honors what has worked well in our previous curriculum while also recognizing that students need an education for the world in which they live. We’ve strived to create a program that is sustainable for teaching, adaptable over the long-term, clear in its assessment and inspiring to our community.

Why the Anchor Plan?

At Hope College, we embrace the anchor as a symbol of hope, a hope that comes from the security that God has a plan for us and will not abandon us. As scripture says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews, 6:19). Our hope frees us to ask big questions and pursue knowledge and truth without fear.

We chose to call Hope College’s general education the Anchor Plan because it represents an education anchored in the liberal arts and in the historic Christian faith. That secure foundation liberates students to explore the world in all its diversity and gain the knowledge, skills and habits to pursue lives of leadership and service in a global society.

A New Vision

The Anchor Plan is grounded in the liberal arts, guiding students through a learning process that expands their knowledge and makes connections across disciplines. We want students and faculty to see that a liberal arts education is more than a series of box-checking. Through the Anchor Plan, students will learn how to seek answers to fundamental and emerging questions about humanity, the natural world and God, and they will learn that we cannot answer these questions through one discipline or approach.

The First Year Seminar will introduce students to the idea of “big questions” that have been central to the liberal arts, questions such as:

  • What does it mean to be human?
  • Can we find unity in a diverse society?
  • What is our responsibility to the natural world?
  • Why does God permit suffering?

Through their coursework, students will learn to answer numerous questions through humanistic, artistic, mathematical, scientific, social scientific, behavioral and religious modes of inquiry.

Finally, in Senior Seminar, students will reflect on how their liberal arts education has given them the courage to not only answer big questions with sensitivity and nuance, but also to take on challenges, solve problems and seek wisdom.

The historic Christian faith also anchors a Hope education. The Anchor Plan will tie our general education more closely to our Christian mission by explicitly providing students with the opportunity for an intellectual understanding of key tenets of Christianity. At the same time, through the Anchor Plan, students will develop an ethical framework, a sense of responsibility to others and a deeper understanding of their own values, commitments and beliefs.

The Anchor Plan prepares students for communicating with those who have different backgrounds and worldviews, understanding complex social dynamics, and finding ways to bridge social, religious, racial and ethnic boundaries. An education grounded in the historic Christian faith compels us to see all people made in the image of God, and, therefore, the Anchor Plan calls on students to hear and appreciate the perspectives, experiences, sufferings and achievements of those who have faced discrimination and exclusion in the United States. In order to lead and serve in a global society, the Anchor Plan also calls students to turn outward and study the perspectives, cultures and experiences of communities around the world.

The Anchor Plan provides students with foundational skills and habits that prepare them for lives of leadership and service in a global society. They will practice effective communication in writing, numerical and scientific analysis, and artistic expression. They will learn to analyze and interpret texts, data, images and language of various forms in ways that allow them to reach valid conclusions, make sound judgements and compelling arguments, and find creative solutions to problems. They will practice listening to and understanding views and beliefs and express their own with courage and empathy.

A Community of Learners

We've positioned the Anchor Plan at the heart of a Hope education. We see the plan providing a framework for building communities of learners, where students and faculty can work together to answer big questions, debate important issues and solve complex problems.

Within the Anchor Plan's structure, we encourage faculty members to imagine the creative possibilities of the curriculum. This could include First Year Seminar or Senior Seminar sections oriented around a common set of Big Questions (as currently modeled by the Phelps Scholars and the First Day program). Faculty could propose clusters of courses within the Anchor Plan that address common questions through different disciplinary perspectives. We now have the Office of Possibilities, which will provide support for faculty who would like to try new approaches to pedagogy and content areas within the Anchor Plan.

Process for Revision and Renewal
The vitality of the Anchor Plan will also depend on faculty investing themselves in providing good stewardship of the curriculum. Recently, Hope has created a new structure for administering the Anchor Plan as a formal part of campus governance. The General Education Council will help keep us accountable to the learning goals we set for our students. It will also be where on-going discussions about the Anchor Plan and potential revisions will take place. The new General Education Council can serve as a body that can be active in evaluating and renewing our general education.

In February 2018, by a vote of 69% (n=107) to 31% (n=48) Hope faculty voiced their support of revising the general education curriculum. The provost put out a call for faculty to volunteer to serve on a General Education Revision Task Force. In April, another vote determined which two faculty members from each of the divisions would serve on the task force. Representatives from the Boerigter Center and Van Wylen Library were appointed by the provost, and in May, the composition of the task force was announced.

Arts Division Anne Heath
Matthew Farmer
Humanities Division Jared Ortiz
Jeanne Petit (co-chair)
Natural & Applied Sciences Division Gerald Griffin*
Katharine Polasek
Social Sciences Division Marissa Doshi**
Pamela Koch
Boerigter Center Shonn Colbrunn
Van Wylen Library Todd Wiebe (co-chair)

The task force commenced its work in August 2018, spending most of the first year reading about the liberal arts and Gen Ed models, and also meeting with academic departments to gather initial thoughts about the curriculum. In the summer and fall of 2019, the task force led a series of discussions about the Hope College Mission and how it can be reflected in Gen Ed. The task force organized the 2019 Pre-College Conference, “The Heart of A Hope Education,” bringing in guest speaker Leon Botstein and leading sessions and activities for faculty. Later that fall, the task force invited two guest speakers to campus to share on topics related to Gen Ed and the liberal arts.

In February 2020, Gen Ed “design teams” consisting of faculty volunteers presented brief proposals at the General Education Symposium put on by the task force. Faculty then ranked proposals, providing the task force with a clearer picture of what type of Gen Ed model and revision the faculty were most interested in pursuing. Other groups consulted by the task force include: recent alumni, Student Congress, multicultural student groups, program directors, student-facing staff, the Assessment Committee, the Academic Affairs Board, and the Dean's Council. Task force members also attended several national conferences to learn about Gen Ed innovation and reform.

*In September of 2019, Vicki Voskuil joined to replace Gerald Griffin upon Gerald's appointment as Associate Provost for Teaching and Learning. Gerald remained on task force with ex-officio status
**In January 2021, Mary Inman joined to replace Marissa Doshi while on maternity leave